Android Overview Updated March 24, 2021

Android

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13,132 'Android' stories

May 2011 - August 2021

Android is Google’s mobile operating system, launched in September 2008, although its history technically began with the release of the Android alpha in November 2007. To this day, Android powers the majority of the world’s smartphones and comes in several different flavors across many phone makers.

What is Android?

Android Inc.

Android, before it was Android, was a company called Android Inc. That company was founded in Palo Alto, California, in 2003 by a crew of four: Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. The company and its project was acquired by Google in 2005 for a sum of more than $50 million, although the exact number is unknown. The company’s founders joined Google as part of the deal.

In its infancy, Android was an operating system built not for touch screen smartphones like the iPhone, but rather BlackBerry-like devices with physical keyboards. It’s well documented that after Apple shocked the world with the iPhone, ahead of its nearest competition by at least a couple years, Google and Android Inc. had to go back to the drawing board to build something competitive.

Adoption by third-party makers

It didn’t take long after the launch of the iPhone for various manufacturers to enter the market with their alternatives — and Google’s Android immediately became the obvious platform of choice for just about everyone except Microsoft. HTC was the first manufacturer on board, and introduced the T-Mobile G1 running Android in September 2008. Soon after, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile jumped on board to form the Open Handset Alliance.

Android makers across the world

Iconic Android handsets

There have been thousands of Android phones released since Android’s inception, but some have been more important to the platform’s history than others. There was the original T-Mobile G1, as mentioned, but there was also the HTC One Google Play Edition, Moto G, Samsung Galaxy S4, and others. Some of the most iconic Android handsets include:

  • HTC G1
  • HTC Nexus One
  • Samsung Galaxy S, S2, S3, S4, and their successors
  • HTC Incredible S
  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Nokia 8
  • BlackBerry KeyOne
  • Google Pixel and its successors

In more modern times, there are several Android smartphones makers that popped up across various niches and in several international markets. Huawei is a dominant Android maker in China and many European markets, while Samsung is by far the most popular maker in the United States by far — effectively creating a duopoly with Apple. Today, there are dozens of major device makers contributing to the Android ecosystem.

Full list of Android OEMs

History of major Android versions

Android has seen countless software revisions over the course of its life, but in modern times the OS usually sees a major release on an annual cadence. In the earlier days, Google famously gave its major software releases dessert-themed codenames, but retired that practice in 2019 with the release of Android 10.

Version Name Release Devices
2.3 Gingerbread February 9, 2011 Nexus S
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich October 19, 2011 Galaxy Nexus
4.1 Jelly Bean July 9, 2012 Nexus 7
4.2 Jelly Bean November 13, 2012 Nexus 4, 10
4.3 Jelly Bean July 24, 2013 Nexus 7 (2013)
4.4 KitKat October 31, 2013 Nexus 5
5.0 Lollipop November 3, 2014 Nexus 6, 9
5.1 Lollipop March 9, 2015 Android One
6.0 Marshmallow October 5, 2015 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.0 Nougat August 22, 2016 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.1 Nougat October 4, 2016 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.0 Oreo August 21, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.1 Oreo December 5, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
9 Pie August 6, 2018 Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
10 10 September 3, 2019 Pixel 3, 3a
11 11 September 8, 2020 Pixel 4

List of major Android OS platforms

While Android proper is certainly the most widespread of Google’s Android operating systems, the company has also launched many offshoots of the main OS over the years. There’s Android Auto, Android Wear (now Wear OS), Android TV (now rebranded to Google TV), as well as versions of Android built for tablets and Android Things (now defunct).

Android Stories August 2

It’s no secret that Google has been trying hard to better service emerging smartphone markets, with India being a major focus for the company. “Android for Feature Phones” was once an ambition Google was working towards, but it was scrapped before coming to market. Now, we’re getting a better look at what that platform would have been.

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Android Stories August 1

For the past few years, Google has aggressively encouraged adoption of two-factor authentication (2FA) — or 2-Step Verification (2SV) as the company refers to it. This includes physical security keys that plug in over USB, while it also offers phone security keys. The latest effort turns Chrome for Android into a security key for Google Account sign-in. 

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“Device Personalization Services” is the method through which Google delivers and updates features like Now Playing (on Pixel), Live Caption, and smart actions in notifications to Android devices. This app, updated via the Play Store, is now being renamed to “Android System Intelligence,” at least on Google Pixel phones.

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Android Stories July 30

Given the service-reliant nature, Google support for Android encompasses multiple layers. One such way is controlling Account access, and Google next month is ending sign-in support for very old versions of Android.

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Android Stories July 29

[Update: Retraction] Motorola’s new Android update policy depends on how long customers keep phones

Android updates don’t always matter much to the average consumer at face value, but long-term support does play a huge role in how long a device is relevant. After years of neglecting Android updates, Motorola is confirming a new update policy that only makes matters worse.

Android Stories July 28

In addition to previewing the “Safety Section,” Google today issued the latest set of Play Policies. One upcoming change will see Google close inactive Play Store developer accounts “after 1 year of dormancy and additional factors.” 

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